Novice Team Information

Thank you for your interest in participating in the 2017 Northern California International Dragon Boat Festival!  Our Novice Team Division has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years, with significant interest from a wide range of corporate and community organizations. 

If you are interested in organizing a new novice team, please contact Hilland Chiu at or Linda Cheu at to find out about availability for this year. 

In addition, you can read our Novice Team Registration Packet or our Novice Team Frequently Asked Questions. 

CDBA Unofficial Novice Team Guidebook


Where can I find up-to- date information about the Hong Economic & Trade Office Northern California International Dragon Boat Festival?

For information regarding the Hong Economic & Trade Office Northern California International Dragon Boat Festival, please visit  Please note that the website will be updated each week with relevant information.  For more information about the California Dragon Boat Association, go to

Who can I contact if I have questions regarding my novice team?

Please contact the Novice Team Coordinator, Hilland Chiu at or Linda Cheu at

How is Novice Division team defined?

Novice teams are allowed three practices or less in a dragon boat season as described in the California Dragon Boat Official Rules and Regulations. While they may have participated in past years in the Novice Division, they have not practiced year round together nor raced in a competitive division. 

What are the minimum and maximum requirements for a novice team crew?

In accordance with the California Dragon Boat Official Rules and Regulations, the minimum and maximum requirements per crew are as follows:

  • The minimum number of paddlers on each crew is 16 and the maximum is 20.*
  • There must be a minimum of 8 female paddlers per crew.
  • There is a maximum of 10 male paddlers per crew.
  • Teams can have a maximum of 4 alternate racers on the race manifest. Therefore, a maximum of 26 participants may be listed on the race manifest for each team which includes 24 paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson.

*If a crew has 20 paddlers, a minimum of 10 women are required.

How much experience is necessary to become a dragon boat paddler?

No prior experience is necessary.  The CDBA will provide novice teams with experienced coaches who will train you and your team to perform at your best on race day.  The coach will go over technique basics and commands to help your team have a fun and safe dragon boat experience.

Is learning how to dragon boat difficult?

Learning to dragon boat is made easier with the help from experienced coaches.  Anyone who has the interest and drive to learn will learn the basics of dragon boating on a novice level quickly and with ease.  It is a great sport that is both mental and physical which makes it challenging and fun.  Becoming a master of the technique will take a lot of time, but learning to compete at the novice level can be accomplished from scratch within three practices.

What is the key to winning?

There is no one straight answer, but it is very important to recognize that dragon boating is a team sport.  Each member acting together as a crew in sync can be more important than strength and speed.  Working together in sync, concentration, endurance, strength, and having a competitive spirit will increase your team’s edge.  Have fun, showing up to practices, and being a team player – that’s what dragon boating is all about.

Must novice teams provide their own equipment such as paddles, life jackets/personal floatation devices (“PFDs”), or boats?

No, the CDBA will provide teams with the above equipment on scheduled practice dates and on race day if necessary as part of the novice team race registration fees.  If your team or teammates would like to use their personal life jackets or paddles, these items must follow the guidelines detailed in the most recent California Dragon Boat Official Rules and Regulations which can be found at the website.  (Only US Coast Guard Approved Class III or higher PFDs are allowed).

Are Novice Teams required to provide their own steersperson?

Only certified steerspersons are allowed to steer for dragon boat teams.  The steersperson is ultimately responsible for the safety of the boat.  The CDBA will provide steerspersons to Novice Teams who require this role for practices and on race day.  A list of steerspersons will be available on race day and it is the Team Captain’s responsibility to ensure that their respective team has a steersperson for each race.  In most cases, your assign coach will work to ensure that you have proper steerspeople arranged.

Must Novice Teams have their own drummer? Can anyone be a drummer?

We typically do not encourage Novice Teams to utilize their own members as a drummer for their team unless that person has prior experience.  Drummers play very critical safety and racing roles in the boat as they are the eyes of the front of the boat and relay commands given by the steersperson and the strokes.

How are practice dates and times arranged with volunteer coaches?

Contact Hilland Chiu at or Linda Cheu at to schedule a practice time. We will work with available coaches and your team to coordinate the dates and times of your team’s practices.  Novice Teams are allowed three practices which are usually scheduled to take place during the month before the race.

Where will practices be held?

Practices will be held at one of the three following locations:

  1. Lake Merced
    Harding Road San Francisco, CA 94132
    1. Parking Information: Parking is free of charge. There are several parking areas around the practice site but please use the 2nd parking lot furthest to the left as you face the Boat House (this will be to the left of the fenced-in lot that is directly to the left of the Boat House). If that lot is full, park in the spots across the street from the Boat House. The practice site is across the street down the hill at the boat ramp.
  2. Bair Island Aquatic Center
    1450 Maple Street Redwood City, CA 94063 (
    1. Parking Information: You can only park on the street before the left turn on Maple Street. DO NOT PARK after the turn, in front of BIAC, behind the building, or across the street. Double parking is prohibited at all times. Carpooling is encouraged whenever possible. For your safety and security, do not leave valuables visible in your car.
  3. Jack London Aquatic Center
    115 Embarcadero Avenue, Oakland, CA 94607

What leadership roles exist within Novice Dragon Boat Teams?

Official Team Roles

  • Team Captain- must be a crew member. Responsible for organizing the team and providing leadership. Works with the assigned coach to make crew decisions.
  • Team Manager- May or may not be a crew member. Helps with administrative paperwork, registration, waivers, and general practice and race day organization.

Examples of Other Team Roles

  • Warm Up Leader
  • Assistant Team Captain

What are the physical and age requirements for Novice Team racing?

The CDBA has no specific physical requirements to participate.  This is an easily accessible and learnable sport; however, if you have a specific health condition, please consult with your doctor or medical provider.  In order to be on a novice team, you must be high school-aged or older.

Do I need to know how to swim?

There is no swimming requirement for being on a novice team.  All team members will be required to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) during practices and at the race.

Are there fees associated with entering the Novice Team Race?

Yes; the 2017 race fee for Corporate Teams is $2,000 and for Community/Educational Novice Teams is $1,000. There are also sponsor packages available that include the race fees (see below) and other premium benefits.  Novice race fees include 3 practices, with all coaching, steering and equipment provided for use in practices and on race day. Please follow the instructions on the registration form online for sending your payment.

My team is interested in becoming a sponsor for the Dragon Boat Festival and would like to know more information regarding who to contact as well as the sponsor benefits.

Great!  Events like this one are made possible through your support!  Teams may choose to become an official sponsor of the race day event and as such, sponsor teams’ race fees will be considered part of their sponsor contribution.  For further details on sponsorship opportunities and benefits or donations, please contact Linda Cheu at or Jeanie Lee at

When and where will the 2017 Northern California International Dragon Boat Competition be held?

The races will be held on September 23 & 24, 2016 at Lake Merritt, Oakland.  Novice races will be held on Saturday, September 23rd.

How long is the race course?

The novice race course is 300 meters, while the competitive race course is 500 meters.  We will notify you of the final novice team race course details closer to the event date.

When will my team race? When should my team arrive to the site?

All novice team races are held on Saturday, September 23, 2016.  We will not know your exact race times until the race grid is finalized a week or two before the race.  However, you can plan on having teams arrive around

What should I bring / wear to the dragon boat practices?

Suggested items to bring to practice:

  1. Layers, especially if practicing at Lake Merced. 
  2. Water resistant and/or comfortable clothing. Quick dry shirts and workout or “tech” clothes tend to work best.  Cotton can get wet and keep you cold.  
  3. Water bottle.
  4. Sunscreen and hat or visor that will be secure while paddling.
  5. Sunglasses (secure them safely so that you do not lose them).
  6. Extra set of clothing and towel for after practice.

Paddles and Life Jackets will be provided at practices and race day.  Also, please leave any non-essential valuables at home.  Be sure to secure your car and not leave items in a viewable location while at practice.

How do I rent a tent for my team on race day?

Your team can rent a tent package for $350.00. The tent package includes: 1 20'x10' canopy, 8' table and 4 chairs. If you want to rent the tent package, please contact

How do I pay for the tent package?

You can write a check to pay to "California Dragon Boat Association." Be sure to include your team's name and "2017 NCIDBF Tent Rental" on the check. The check can be mailed to 268 Bush St #888 San Francisco, CA 94104. 

Is it mandatory for my team to rent the tent package?

No, renting the tent package is not mandatory, You can bring your own canopy/tent, tables and chairs to the site as long as they can fit into the 10'x20' space your team is assigned.